Friday, June 21, 2013

Man of Steel

And, yeah, I like the suit.

Spoilers: since I can't seem to figure out how to do those really cool spoiler tags in my blog that other bloggers have, I'm doing it the poor man's way - spoilers are white text on a white background. If you see a gap in the text, it's a spoiler of some sort. Just highlight it to read it.
A review
First of all, I'm a Superman fan. Let's just get that out of the way right at the beginning. I watched the old black and white versions when I was little. I delighted in the 1978 version with Christopher Reeve (though not much of a fan of Margot Kidder). I don't think I missed an episode of Lois and Clark and I thought that Dean Cain was an excellent Superman (and was a fan of Teri Hatcher). I didn't enjoy Superman Returns at all. I'd like to scrub that one from my mind actually.
I'm also a Spiderman fan. The Sam Raimi trilogy for Spiderman violated a Spiderman premise when the webs shot from Peter Parker's wrists instead of mechanical devices. Mark Webb's 2012 version, The Amazing Spiderman, deviated from the comics when The Lizard killed Gwen's Dad instead of Doc Ock doing so. I don't want to see Gwen Stacy die either, so I hope this incarnation of Spiderman continues to violate tradition. Gwen's death at the hands of the Green Goblin (or arguably by the physics of snagging her ankle with a web as she fell from the bridge) was traumatic when I was a young fan of the comic. I'd rather not be traumatized again as an elderly man. I like the Gwen Stacy in the film as much as I liked the one in the comics.
So the precedent for deviating from a comic is well-established. In a previous post I linked to a reviewer that wasn't fond of Man of Steel because it violated a basic precept of Kal-El. In the comics Superman would have found an alternative solution to the final dilemma in the movie. In the movie, he did not.
I also liked the Lois Lane in Man of Steel. Every single incarnation of Lois Lane in the films, series, and comics makes a point of stating how she is an award-winning investigative reporter - and yet she can't see that Clark and Superman are the same person? Please. This movie finally does it right. Oh, and nobody wiped her memory either.
Also, I was delighted with the choices for Clark and Lois. Henry Cavill is awesome as Superman. When he first appears on the oil rig, flames engulfing his body like a magic cloak, then strains to hold the rig aloft while the helicopter escapes - he was perfect. I actually thought the bearded look was brilliant - his search for himself, so to speak. Amy Adams as Lois Lane did not appear as a glamorous beauty, but she was perfect for the role of a clever, investigative reporter. Not only could she do her job investigating, she also had a feel for people and an excellent moral compass. Thank goodness. Most of the past versions of Lois wrote anything for a byline above the fold.
Laurence Fishburne was an excellent Perry White. Russell Crowe played a fabulous Jor-El, though I suspect he didn't make as much money as Marlon Brando in the classic 1978 Superman. Though I liked Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, I just couldn't appreciate the world view of this Jonathan Kent, the paranoia where he advises a young Clark that maybe he should have let his classmates drown. That sits badly with me, but I have to say I was pleased that Kal-El was forged of better stuff (steel, perhaps). Diane Lane was excellent as Martha Kent, but I have to wonder how much she loved her husband. I would hope if that was me threatened by a tornado that Darling would tell young Clark to save me, regardless of the onlookers. That was a weak plot point to me.
One reviewer said there were three parts to this movie: Krypton, young Clark and Superman versus Zod. The way Zack Snyder managed the flashbacks blended well into the story, so I tend to view the movie as two parts, just Krypton and Earth.
Krypton was amazing, at times like watching a harsh version of Avatar, though why Jor-El and Lara didn't just escape to the Phantom Zone is beyond me (and a question that has lingered since childhood). Still, that's the best back-story on Krypton we've ever had (that I know of).
The special effects for all the battle scenes were over-the-top, too much, actually. A real superhero would take the fight somewhere less populated. From the best I could determine, not only was the Kent farmhouse destroyed, but Smallville was pretty much wiped off the map (c'mon - that's not really a spoiler) with all the explosions. The amount of damage done to Metropolis was even worse, though that was part terra-forming and part battle damage.
The final scene with Zod was severe. I can hardly think about it even now. Yet, in hindsight, it was necessary to this plot, this imagining of Superman.
I rank most of my movies by comparing them to one that I thought was incredible, so right now that puts Joss Whedon's The Avengers from 2012 at the top of the list with a solid 9 or 9.5 (I don't give anyone a 10. There's only one Nadia Comaneci after all. Once you give someone a perfect 10 it just opens the floodgates for more.)

So I'd give Man of Steel a solid 7.5, perhaps even pushing an 8. Let's put it this way: though I never want to have Superman Returns in my movie collection, I'll certainly add Man of Steel - and I'll watch it again, too!

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